Several years ago, I began writing and editing book reviews for The Revealer. As you probably know, there was a time between then and now when things slowed down on the site. I was out of touch with with it for a time. With this first post of 2010, an essay in defense of criticism, I’m resuming my role.
I was abroad during Christmastime and over the New Year. While traveling I received a “Happy New Year!” email from a writer I know named Justin Jamail, who’d recently relocated to Tokyo. “It was a rough introduction to work life here. I felt like I was in one of those training scenes from the Rocky movies, except that it took place in a Hermann Miller chair in front of a computer instead of a gym.” With this email, he included a longish response to James Wood’s November 30, 2009 New Yorker review of the novels of Paul Auster. Justin sent this not knowing my plans to rejoin The Revealer, and was up front with me that Auster is “a personal friend.” He also reminded me of a review I wrote of Auster’s 2003 novel, The Book of Illusions. “I think I remember your not liking Auster’s books either,” he wrote, “and if so, that might make you a fair judge of this response.” It’s true. In 2003, I did not like The Book of Illusions. (I later admitted to another friend, “I ended up reviewing it, badly, I think, looking back.”)
Moving forward, The Revealer will review books and comment on the book world in the specific context of religion and the media. (In other words, what follows is not perfectly representative of what we’ll be up to here.) Indeed, James Wood, a regular writer on religion, will surely come up again. What we’ll be interested in posting is the kind of review Justin encourages below, which takes an author, in Dryden’s words, “on the strongest side.”
By Justin Jamail
A Man who is resolv